Stripper Extraordinaire

Remember, this is a family publication. So we're not talking about a trip to your local clothing optional establishment in our headline.

Instead, we're talking about the art of prying the football away from offensive players. Those Mountaineer fans not fourtunate enough to have made it to Greenville, North Carolina last weekend missed an outstanding display of the technique from senior linebacker Grant Wiley.

The first occurrence came with East Carolina backed up in the shadow of their own goal line in the third quarter. Wiley came around the corner and in the midst of a tackle attempt, ripped the ball away from Pirate running back Vonta Leach. The bounding ball was pounced upon by Ernest Hunter, which set up Kay Jay Harris' first collegiate touchdown.

Then, with ECU driving, Wiley sprinted downfield and blasted the ball free from the clutches of ECU wide receiver Terrance Copper, who had caught a screen pass and was trying to maneuver for more yardage. That free football was claimed by Adam Lehnortt to thwart the Pirate scoring effort.

So, what is it that makes a good stripper?

First, it's making sure that the tackle is assurred before the strip is attmepted, or that the act of trying to strip the ball doesn't cause the defender to miss the tackle entirely. Second, it's attacking the ball with force, because simply pawing at the ball won't get many results. And third, it's seeing the opportunity and making a play on the ball.

All those things may sound simple, but putting them together in the heat of battle can be difficult. However, Wiley makes it sound very natural as he desribes the two fumbles he forced against the Pirates.

"On the first one I knew I had the tackle, and I felt my hand on the ball as soon as I hit him," Wiley explained. "I just ripped at it, and it came out.

"The second one, they ran a screen, and the receivers like to pick and choose their blocks on that play. I hesitated, and then when I saw where he was going I accelerated, and got to him from behind. Then I did the old Brian Dawkins chop at the ball."

Dawkins, of course, is a Pro Bowl free safety for the Philadelphia Eagles, who play just a short commute from Wiley's hometown of Trappe, Pa. And there couldn't be a better role model for the art of stripping the football.

"I watch him all the time. He always does it," Wiley said of Dawkins, who excels at the move.

With his two forced fumbles against the Pirates, Wiley has doubled his career output, and figures to add a few more to that total before he's done at West Virginia. And, as Wiley notes, the end result of stripping the football is likely to be more marks on the left side of the Won-Loss ledger.

"Turnovers win games. We didn't have any last week, and we lost. That was one of our main concerns in practice - forcing turnovers. We got a bunch of them tonight."

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